Absence of Evidence by M. C. Tuggle

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Neurodivergence and Mystery

by M. C. Tuggle

One of the themes I keep returning to in my writing is the disconnect between modern norms and human needs. The resulting clash is hard on everyone, but especially so for autistic individuals. Both work and educational norms require people to sit all day, which is pure agony for someone bursting with energy and curiosity, whose natural instinct is to ramble and explore the world around them.

Similarly, a society that’s scrapped traditional codes of behavior is a nightmare for those who seek the comfort of structure and proper protocol, standards that once guided and sheltered individuals in potentially awkward interactions. this has critically eroded social connections. And that’s a tragedy, because the loss of connections impairs individual development.

That’s the driving theme in my novelette “Absence of Evidence“, now in the latest issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine. The protagonist, Treka Dunn, is a former combat nurse who can fix anything from shrapnel wounds to barracks plumbing. Now the chief medical examiner at the Gilead, Missouri, county morgue, she faces budget cuts, a growing backlog, and family pressures. So when her cursory exam of Davis Washburn’s body reveals no evidence of foul play, she’s ready to move on to her next corpse.

But Ron Washburn, the victim’s son, is convinced his father was poisoned. Ron, who is autistic, struggles to convince Treka and Officer Jerry Simms, who investigated Washburn’s death. Treka agrees to run a toxicology test, which reveals–nothing. When she tries to explain her findings to Ron, he mentions a seemingly insignificant detail that Treka can’t explain – and she realizes a murderer is about to get away with the perfect crime.

My primary motivation in researching and writing this story is that I love offbeat characters, a challenging mystery, and juicy technical details. But another thing that inspired this story is my experience with InReach a service agency that provides assistance to folks with learning disabilities. My wife and I support this organization. InReach’s annual luncheons, which give sponsors the opportunity to meet the people their donations aid, have deeply moved us.

So the character Ron Washburn is based in part on the life experiences of several of the InReach clients we’ve met. I can only hope the character I’ve drawn reflects the dignity, sense of purpose, and pride of those clients. Treka Dunn is the protagonist of “Absence of Evidence,” but Ron Washburn is the driving force behind Treka’s quest for justice.

In fact, “Absence of Evidence” reinforces the theme of social and individual integrity in its interplay of characters and plot. The murderer is a sociopath disconnected from human relationships, while the three main characters reflect the unity of a healthy personality — Treka Dunn is the mind, Officer Jerry Simms the body, and Ron Washburn, the spirit. All three are unique individuals who aid and sustain each other. And that’s the kind of people we all aspire to be.

Mystery Weekly Magazine is a Mystery Writers of America approved publisher, and is available in digital and print formats on Amazon.

M. C. Tuggle lives and writes in Charlotte, North Carolina. His fantasy, science fiction, and mystery short stories have appeared in several publications, including Mystery Weekly, Hexagon, and Metaphorosis. He blogs on all things literary at https://mctuggle.com/

I want to thank M. C. Tuggle for his guest post. Please be sure to go to his excellent site!

Happy Independence Day!

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I wish all a happy and safe 4th of July.  Please celebrate safely, have fun, and take a moment to remember all those who sacrificed to bring freedom.

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Let us also remember that freedom includes everyone of all races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, classes, sexual orientations, creeds, and neurodiversities–and any others I may have forgotten.  Freedom demands inclusion, not exclusion. We must always remember that. We are all connected. We, all of us, are the people.

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Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s: Part V, The Addams Family

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For my next installment in this series, I will talk about a show that I find fascinating on many levels: The Addams Family. Seemingly a sit-com about a group of misfits, based loosely on figures from horror films, whose adventures are fodder for laughter, it was actually a demonstration of a completely loving and functional family.

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This unusual family, given to behavior that was not indicative of the so-called normal American clan, has had numerous incarnations since the late 1930s. Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, this family first was seen in The New Yorker and continued appearing there for several decades. Then, from 1964-1966, the family was featured in the sit-com on Television, complete with the catchy finger-snapping tune that so many people know. Several feature movies and a musical followed, so the characters continue on in new variations to this day.

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As a child, I loved the silliness of the show as well as the Gothic atmosphere. I loved the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s (which will become a later blog series I will write), and this show was evocative of those movies.

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Today, I see a series with a far deeper meaning that what I perceived when I was very young. This family is not one of which people should be frightened. Rather, they could be held as an exemplar of a loving and in love couple, who after many years of marriage, still carry great chemistry in their relationship. They love their children and their extended family.

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Additionally, this show interrogates the need that America seems to have for normalcy. We are taught that everyone should behave according to set standards, or we are somehow wrong. Certainly the members of the Addams clan do not abide by such behavioral proscriptions. They are able to define their own lives and live decently without harming other people. But they are different from others.

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This point clearly speaks to the issue of bigotry and tolerance. While it does so metaphorically, it still make the necessary and vital stand that we, as a society, must embrace other people, no matter their differences: of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, nationality, neuro-diversity, intelligence, and many other so-called divisions that are often applied to humanity. While always funny, The Addams Family is ultimately a show about understanding and inclusion, a theme that should resonate today.

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